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While we were waiting for Mass to start this morning, I was reading the reflection on St. Thomas Becket from The Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger. This series was originally published in the 1800′s but the timeliness of his reflection and the warning it contains, especially in light of the new abortion regulations in the new health care law, are worth some reflection.

But beyond the debt that every Christian has , of shedding his blood rather than denying his Faith, that is, of allowing no threats or dangers to make him disown the sacred ties which unite him to the Church, and through her to Jesus Christ; beyond this, Pastors have another debt to pay, which is that of defending the liberty of the Church. To Kings and Rulers, and, in general to all diplomatists and politicians, there are few expressions so unwelcome as this of the liberty of the Church; with them it means a sort of conspiracy…

She sanctions the noble maxim of St. Anselm, one of St. Thomas’s predecessors in the See of Canterbury: Nothing does God love so much in this world as the liberty of his Church; and the Apostolic See declares by the mouth of Pius VIII, in the nineteenth century, the very same doctrine she would have taught by St. Gregory VII, in the eleventh century: The Church, the spotless Spouse of Jesus Christ the immaculate Lamb, is by God’s appointment Free, and subject to no earthly power.

But in what does this sacred liberty consist? It consists in the Church’s absolute independence of every secular power in the ministry of the Word of God, which she is bound to preach in season and out of season, as St. Paul says, to all mankind, without distinction  of nation or race or age or sex: in the administration of the Sacraments, to which she must invite all men without exception, in order to the world’s salvation: in the practice, free from all human control, of the Councels, as well as the Precepts, of the Gospel: in the unobstructed intercommunication of the  several degrees of her sacred hierarchy: in the publication and application of her decrees and ordinances in matters of discipline: in the maintenance and development of the Institutions she has founded: in holding and governing her temporal patrimony: and lastly in the defense of those privileges which have been adjudged to her by the civil authority itself, in order that her ministry of peace and charity might be unembarrassed and respected.

Such is the Liberty of the Church. It is the bulwark of the Sanctuary. Every breach there imperils the Hierarchy, and even the very Faith. A Bishop may not flee, as the hireling, nor hold his peace, like those dumb dogs of which the Prophet Isaias speaks, and which are not able to bark. He is the Watchman of Israel: he is a traitor if he first lets the enemy enter the citadel, and then, but only then, gives the alarm and risks his person and his life. The obligation of laying down his life for his flock begins to be in force at the enemy’s first attack upon the very outposts of the City, which is only safe when they are strongly guarded…

The world is hard to teach, else it would have long since learned this truth, that a Christian people can never see with indifference a pastor put to death for fidelity to his charge; and that a government that dares to make a martyr will pay dearly for the crime. Modern diplomacy has learned the secret; experience has given it the instinctive craft of waging war against the liberty of the Church with less violence and more intrigue – the intrigue of enslaving her by political administration. It was this crafty diplomacy which forged the chains wherewith so many churches are now shackled, and which, be they ever so gilded, are insupportable. There is but one way to unlink such fetters – to break them. He that breaks them will be great in the Church of heaven and earth, for he must be a martyr: he will not have to fight with the sword, or be a political agitator, but simply to resist the plotters against the liberty of the Spouse of Christ, and suffer patiently whatever may be said or done against him.

As we approach the full implementation of the HHS abortion-coerced mandates and see that it is possible that such requirements may remain the law of the land and forced on us all, there are some hard things we as individual Catholics will need to consider and which I had hoped our bishops would have done more to address leading up to the election.

  1. The bishops have repeatedly declared that paying for insurance under the new law is immoral and they won’t do it because of the contraception and abortion coverage requirements.
  2. By not paying they will be forced to pay fines that will be used for the same purpose and probably bankrupt hospitals and schools. Hobby Lobby isn’t backing down from their refusal to obey the law could be facing fines of 1.4 million dollars a day for refusing to compromise their Christian principles.
  3. We as individuals are facing the same issue as the bishops – either voluntarily sacrifice principles and buy insurance or be forced to pay for it through fines. Since the fines are being used for the same purpose, how can we as individuals pay them?

The bishops really need to address these issues because frankly, it looks like we as Catholics and any other religious people who believe that abortion is evil will be facing jail time for refusing to comply with this law either through voluntary or forced means.

It’s academic to speculate whether or not bishops will be arrested or hospitals and schools will be forced to shut down for refusing to comply with the law. It’s another thing entirely to consider the possibility that as a father I may be faced with the choice of going to jail or sacrificing principles over a law that is supposedly about providing health care.

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The Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket

 

On December 29, the Catholic Church remembers St. Thomas Becket, the other Thomas who was martyred for the Catholic Faith in England by a king named Henry over matters of Church governance.

Thomas was born in London on the 21st of December in either 1117 or 1118 to Gilbert Becket and Matilda Roheise. His parents were buried in Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. When Thomas was 10 he learned to read at the Merton Priory in England and then traveled to the Mainland for further studies of canon and civil law in Paris, Bologna, and Auxerre.

After his studies were concluded he returned to England around 1141 where he gained the attention of Theobold, Archbishop of Canterbury, who sent him on several missions to Rome and ordained him a deacon in 1154. Soon after this, he was named Archdeacon of Canterbury. About this same time King Stephen died, leaving Henry the II as the new king. At Archbishop Theobold’surging, King Henry named Thomas the Lord High Chancellor of England. Thomas and King Henry were close friends and both spent a good deal of time “living it up.”

Thomas was so zealous in carrying out his duties as chancellor that many of the English clergy distrusted him.

Read more about St. Thomas Becket >>

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Christmastide Prayers

Flight into Egypt

Christmastide — also known as the 12 Days of Christmas, or Yuletide — runs from Vespers on Christmas Eve to the Epiphany of Our Lord. Each day is a great Feast Day, so here’s a collection of daily prayers to help you celebrate and enjoy the Christmas Season.

The Nativity of the Lord (Dec 25): Good Father, bless us, and our parents, our families, and our friends. Open our hearts so that we might know how to receive Jesus with joy, doing always what He asks, and seeing Him in all those who are in need of our love. We ask you in the name of Jesus, your beloved Son, who came to bring peace to the world. He lives and reigns with you forever and ever. +Amen

Saint Stephen (Dec 26): Grant, Lord, we pray, that we may imitate what we worship, and so learn to love our enemies, for we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man, Stephen, who knew how to pray even for his persecutors. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.

Saint John (Dec 27): O God, who through the blessed Apostle John have unlocked for us the secrets of your Word, grant, we pray, that we may grasp with proper understanding what he has so marvelously brought to our ears. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. +Amen

Read the prayers for the rest of Christmas >>

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O Christ, our Defender, taking the form of man, You have bestowed upon him the joy of becoming Godlike (St. John Damascene)

Nativity Icon

Sinai Nativity Icon

Eastern-Rite Catholics (non Latin-Rite) have beautiful and ancient traditions for celebrating Christmas, which is commonly called the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. The time before Christmas is known as the pre-Nativity period, and it is longer than our season of Advent. It has a few distinct practices

Fasting: Eastern Catholics prepare for the great Feast Day by a period of fasting — much like Lent before Easter. This fast is called the Nativity Fast, or sometimes known as St. Philip’s Fast or the Philippian Fast, because it starts after the day of the Feast of St. Philip on November 14.  The Fast lasts for 40 days until Nativity. In some Churches, like here in the United States, the Fast has been shortened to two weeks beginning December 10, following the feast of the Immaculate Conception (known as the Feast of the Conception of St. Anne in the Eastern Churches).

Read more about Eastern traditions >>

 

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Holy Innocents

As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents today, it is interesting to see that one of the biggest stories of the day is that Hobby Lobby has refused to comply with the law requiring health insurance coverage to pay for abortions. This comes a day after the “Catholic”  Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected an emergency stay of the Abortion Mandate that had been written by the “Catholic” head of HHS Kathleen Sebelius.

Remember when the law was passed and President Obama signed an executive order to not include abortion in the coverage? Remember the supposedly “pro-life” Democrats who voted in favor of it after that smokescreen? Have you noticed the recent redefining of pregnancy to mean implantation instead of fertilization? Now it makes sense. If pregnancy can be redefined to mean implantation then abortifacient drugs are suddenly only contraceptives. See? Wasn’t that easy? Now go put that troubled little conscience of yours back in your church box and don’t let it out again. Of course, reality is still reality and innocents are still being murdered on the altar of convenience.

Hobby Lobby

Reading through the comments on the article, it is clear that we have reached a point in this country where a vocal minority believes that religion is something that should only be visible within the confines of a physical church (like in the Soviet Union). These people (and those who are in charge of the health insurance regulations) have twisted the definition of “free exercise” found in the Constitution to mean only worship. If you listen to them talk, they typically talk about this “freedom to worship” instead of “free exercise” because it is a much narrower freedom and one that allows the government to push aside any objections to policy that are made by religious people because religion is no longer allowed to have a voice in the public square.

The irony of this is that those in power frequently invoke the Bible to justify their freedom-crushing, religion persecuting policies. It will be interesting to see what the US bishops do with their hospitals next August when the government good Samaritan comes knocking with a choice between violating religious principals and jail.

 

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The Magnificat Year of Faith Companion

I have long been a fan of Magnificat’s books. Their simple companions to praying the rosary or to the liturgical seasons of Lent or Advent have served as guides to helping me focus on prayer and meditation. Their more complex books such as The Beauty of the Word or the series praying with the gospels help me to steadily meditate on larger works over the year. In short, I have come to rely on them.

When Pope Benedict XVI’s proclaimed this liturgical year as The Year of Faith, Magnificat produced aYear of Faith Companion with short readings focusing on faith. This pocket-sized book is packed with reflections for every day of the year from over 30 contributors, ranging from laypeople to religious and clergy.  The readings are also wide-ranging, falling into one of eight categories: Biblical faith profiles, scriptural reflections, catechism excerpts, devotions, essays, meditations from saints and spiritual masters, prayers, and poetry. All in all, there is a wealth of material at your fingertips in this small book.

Read the rest of the review >>

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Yes, You Can Still Get it By Christmas

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This week I interviewed Joseph Pearce about his new book, Bilbo’s Journey, and Fr. Dwight Longenecker about Catholicism Pure and Simple.

Catholicism Pure and Simple

Catholicism Pure and Simple

 

Bilbo's Journey

Bilbo’s Journey

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Newtown’s Herd of Elephants

Sandy Hook Elementary
As we try and absorb the horror of what happened in Connecticut last week, there is the predictable chorus of voices calling for stricter gun laws or the outright banning of guns.

These voices live in the illogical bubble of belief that:

  1. Criminals follow the law (unless the law is wrong – see below)
  2. Evil doesn’t exist

The first issue is the most troubling because they believe that the law is an absolute deterrent against bad behavior in spite of plenty of evidence to the contrary. Was Sandy Hook Elementary in a gun-free zone? Yes. And yet, the killer broke the law by taking guns onto the property. Was the school locked down for the school day? It appears that it was and that the killer broke another law by destroying school property to enter the building. Is murder illegal? Yes. And yet, the killer left 26 dead on the floor of the school.

It is interesting that those who advocate for gun control or gun banning are also typically the same people who claim that outlawing abortion, outlawing drugs and passing laws against illegal immigration won’t work because people will find a way to do those things anyway. If outlawing abortion will bring back the mythical age when thousands of women performed coat hanger abortions or had abortions in filthy facilities performed by unscrupulous abortionists (instead of the legal filthy facilities and unscrupulous abortionists that we legally have now), then why would those advocating for more gun control believe that real criminals (instead of women who may be in a difficult situation) suddenly would decide that they will use knives to commit crime because guns are illegal? A reasonable comparison is the mythical man in Africa who frequents prostitutes but won’t use condoms because the Catholic Church says it’s wrong.

The second problem that these advocates have with their world view is that they really don’t believe in evil. Sure, they talk about the horror of the killings and the evil of the individual but their solutions point towards a world where the individual is viewed as a piece of machinery that simply needs to be programmed through a new law or regulation in order to behave “acceptably.” People aren’t machines. Laws were viewed by America’s founders as the last resort when personal responsibility failed. In its early days, the Founders regularly affirmed that America was great and would remain great because of its social mores, based on its Christian roots. Alexis de Touqueville took it one step further and said that Catholicism in particular was the glue that would keep America on the right path because of its moral outlook and unified community. Not all of the Founders were Christians but they understood that religion was actually an important part of keeping a society stable because of the Christian view that there is good and that there is also evil and that the society could do a far better job of instilling that in its citizens than government.

Unfortunately, America is no longer is rooted in its Christian principles. Sure, atheists and nominal Christians still talk about “right” and “wrong” but they don’t really believe it, at least not in an absolute sense. “Right” and “wrong” are now decided by consensus. Killing 26 people in a school is wrong but killing thousands in the womb is a right. Corporate corruption may be frowned upon but is anyone articulating what is wrong with our corporate world except in terms of rich = bad? Politicians are only as bad as they are part of the opposing party. Prostitution is only wrong to the extent that it “isn’t safe”.

Putting aside the knee-jerk reaction to restrict / ban guns as a solution, there are several issues that would be discussed if we as Americans still believed in right and wrong and that society, not government, has the greatest responsibility for producing good citizens.

First is the issue of divorce and out-of-wedlock births. It isn’t really popular to say this anymore, but marriage, even one that isn’t idyllic, is still the best environment for raising children. Children thrive on order and predictability. When they are subjected to a parade of mommy’s boyfriends – who statistically are the most likely to abuse the kids – or are bounced back and forth for visitation, they may be able to cope; but is coping the best we want to offer our children?

What about the message sent to children who are told that a vow means something, and then watch mommy and daddy get a divorce because they just don’t love each other anymore? Promises are a foundational principle for children so what does finding out that promises are only good until someone doesn’t want to keep them do to their development? It certainly doesn’t lead them to be more trusting and have more personal restraint.

Second is the issue of mental illness and psychological drugs. In case after case, from Columbine to Sandy Hook, we hear that the murderer had mental problems and was on prescription drugs. Are we as a country really dealing with mental illness properly? Is doping up kids, especially boys, who are “causing disturbances” really the best solution? Are we even bothering to look for causes? Or instead, are we avoiding trying to find the causes because we’re afraid that we may find that our “personal ‘happiness’ trumps all” mentality, the lack of stable family life and absent fathers may actually be part of the problem? Stability and predictability are key factors in helping many people with mental issues to cope with daily life. The chaos that is the modern family produces the exact opposite.

Third is the issue of sex. I’m not talking about birds and bees, I’m talking about male and female. As has been documented frequently over the past few decades, the feminist push has led to strange goals in social engineering. Feminists don’t like boys being boys and doing “guy stuff” like rough-housing, throwing things, or making guns out of Lego, bread, or any other available substance. They don’t believe in male-only clubs (see Augusta) because they believe that men and women are creations of society and are fundamentally the same. This also feeds into the push for approval of ambiguous sexual identity and the destruction of marriage.

On the flip side, feminism has led to a coarsening of women. Words like “nurturer”, “homemaker” and even “mother” make feminists bristle and so they push for women in combat, the end of segregated sports and the increased sexualization of women so they can be just like the guys. You see, feminists don’t want to celebrate being women, they want to destroy the feminine and replace it with “stereotypical guy light” because femininity is supposedly an artificial construct of an oppressive patriarchal society.

How are boys, especially ones that may have mental problems, supposed to react to a society like this? More than half of them grow up in homes without one of their parents, typically their father. They aren’t learning discipline at home because dad is either absent or still acts like a teenager so they don’t have a masculine role model to show them how to be “real men.”

They are told that they shouldn’t act like boys and are doped up because “being boys” has become a bad thing while at the same time they are fed a diet of emasculated, sex-crazed men on television and  super violent men at the movies and in video games.

Outside of the entertainment world, they see that men treat women as nothing more than “things” and that women take it because, really, there isn’t any difference between men and women, right? Is this really “empowering” women? In fact, in a society where people are seen as just intelligent animals, there really isn’t a better life-plan than to use others for your own personal gain.

How exactly is a boy who is subjected to a constant diet of these messages and role models supposed to grow up to be what society defines as the very low bar of a “good person”, let alone to be a truly virtuous man?

We can talk about gun control all we want but until the true issues are addressed we won’t really fix the problems.

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